Why am I the mosquitos chosen snack?
January 6, 2019 8:59 AM   Subscribe

I am in the Caribbean with my mom, dad, husband, and son. My legs are covered in bug bites while everyone else has just a few. I don’t wear perfume. We are all using the same shampoo/conditioner/bar soap/sunscreen/detergent/deet bugspray (except for the baby). I think these are mosquito bites but I did check for bed bugs and found no evidence. What the hell is happening?
posted by pintapicasso to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It's probably just an old wives tale, but my grandfather was the opposite and we always said it was because of his "natural electrical charge." Bugs never bit him. He could grab bees in his bare hands and never get stung. Battery watches would always short-out when he wore them.

My grandfather was basically the Chuck Norris of his time. ;-)
posted by johnxlibris at 9:08 AM on January 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

I, too, have always been a mosquito magnet. While 'sweet blood' has been debunked as a cause, you could be secreting more sacchrides in your sweat than your companions.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 9:21 AM on January 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've never known it to be any other way. I don't know why it is, but in every party there is a preferred snack bar. When I was a kid on canoe trips, the slogan for Leinenkugels beer was "A Little Smoother." We would kid my brother that he was a little smoother, because the mosquitos all went for him.

Try eating some garlic, or taking those garlic capsules. Works for some people.
posted by bricoleur at 9:21 AM on January 6, 2019

Best answer: It’s just you, and how you smell. It may have to do with your microbiome, and how it differs from the others. Linked Scientific American post has lots of links to original studies for further reading.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:26 AM on January 6, 2019 [10 favorites]

Best answer: One additional thing not mentioned above is that mosquitos are thermotaxic, seeking out prey by heat - so if you run warmer than your family, you are a better target. Obviously if you are warmer this will affect both your skin flora and your secretions as well.
posted by Vortisaur at 9:30 AM on January 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

I think these are mosquito bites but I did check for bed bugs and found no evidence.

Sand flies?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:43 AM on January 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you are tasty. I am too; I also react pretty strongly so my bites swell up more and are more noticeable.
I once got 98 bites on just my ankles (the only exposed skin..) in under an hour in a friend’s backyard.

So you aren’t nuts, but there isn’t much you can do except wear repellent all the time and physically block the mosquitos (thin clothes may not be enough— they still try to bite through jeans but generally aren’t successful). And once you do get bitten, if you have a really big pile of bites, the reaction is histamine mediated so taking an OTC oral antihistamine helps. If it’s not so many a topical antihistamine cream helps.

Oh, and if there’s any chance you are pregnant, that could also make you more attractive— something about higher body temp and metabolic rate. If that’s the case then it may not be with you forever.
posted by nat at 10:00 AM on January 6, 2019

Best answer: FYI, some types of mosquitos seem to prefer ankles. I have friends who assured me there were no skeeters at their house. I saw skeeters land on them, probably bite, but my friends had no reaction. I got bitten to pieces, others had a few bites. I get nasty quarter to half solar sized welts that itch for days. If I get a lot of bites, I get a general allergic reaction with ears ringing, red watery eyes, misery. I live in Maine near woods and water and have never gotten de-sensitized to the horrid things. Bug dope with citronella or less toxic ingredients works only a little bit; I have to use the stuff with DEET.

Benadryl helps with the allergic reaction.
posted by theora55 at 11:20 AM on January 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm also tasty to skeeters. If I'm expecting to get bug bites, I take generic Zyrtec daily to prevent the bites swelling as much. If Claritin usually works for you, that should also be fine, as it's another long acting antihistamine.
posted by momus_window at 11:26 AM on January 6, 2019

Best answer: It's possible that you are all getting bitten but that you are more reactive to mosquito venom, so you get all the visible "mosquito bites" and their immune system just doesn't do that. I'm in the latter group -- for a while I thought mosquitos didn't bite me but now I notice that even when I swat one off a bit too late, I don't usually get the red swollen itchy mark my other family members get. Also I'm less reactive to poison ivy -- figure there must be something with variable histamines in our systems...
posted by nantucket at 11:28 AM on January 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Pretty sure the 'don't shave' thing is bunk, sorry. I"m AFAB and not a particularly hairy one, and I'm one of those people whom mosquitoes never bother. Hairy men in my vicinity get my dose of mosquitoes in addition to their own. Something something something genetic I'm sure.
posted by twoplussix at 11:36 AM on January 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have been told that eating raw garlic helps. While NYT and Straight Dope say that it's debunked, it certainly is tasty and can't hurt!
posted by Radiophonic Oddity at 11:38 AM on January 6, 2019

Are you O-? in which case yeah, you're gonna get bitten a lot. O- blood types report more mosquito bites. No one is quite sure why but it's a known thing.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:18 PM on January 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am in the elite ranks of mosquito cuisine too, and sometimes react with welts in excess of the size of a bar of soap.

Lemon eucalyptus spay has been tested to be as effective as DEET, so spray yourself down and wear covering clothes. A fan blowing directly on you will help too. Or stay inside at dusk :(

Benedryl is very helpful if you dont mind the soporific effect. For topical: if you feel a new bite starting to blow up put a BIG blob of cortisone cream on. Do not rub in!!!! Let it soak in slowly. Yes, everyone on the camping trip will tell you you have white stuff on your face...but its amazingly effective for avoiding "large local reaction" aka the welts the size of school buses.
posted by supermedusa at 12:36 PM on January 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If I get bit on below my elbow I won't be able to close my fist. And I am deliiiicious. I invented my own topical post-exposure by crushing Tyrozets (throat losenges) in a teaspoon of water and dabbing. They are antibiotic, antiseptic and has some local anesthetic in there that helped with the itching too, was the best post-bite experience I've had. I made it through the entire trip by using lots of repellent daily but at the end of the trip forgot it since I hadn't been bitten. Doh.
posted by Iteki at 1:08 PM on January 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sample size of one but I run warmer than usual and the mosquitoes definitely love me much to my chagrin.
posted by mmascolino at 2:38 PM on January 6, 2019

Best answer: My 23andme test results indicate that I am genetically more likely to be bitten by mosquitos than others. They claim to have "identified 285 genetic markers that were associated with mosquito bite frequency, bite itchiness, or bite size." So there you have it.
posted by whistle pig at 3:29 PM on January 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am the resident mosquito magnet in the house and can confirm garlic doesn't work.

posted by whitelotus at 4:23 PM on January 6, 2019

Best answer: Post-bite: Benedril spray. Caledril and Benedril are in the same family -- don't use together. I keep a roll-on stick with me, but the spray is less irritating.

Pre-bite: lemon eucalyptus spray, DEET, pemythrem(?) spray on clothing (check the camping supplies area at Wal-Mart or other stores).
posted by TrishaU at 10:42 PM on January 6, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! The deet isn’t doing shit so I tried my son’s hippie bug spray and it’s been more effective so far. I didn’t even consider an antihistamine or topical steroid so thanks to everyone who suggested that.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:43 AM on January 7, 2019

I've heard that everyone gets bitten the same amount, but some people react worse than others.
posted by Dwardles at 6:53 AM on January 7, 2019

Best answer: You might want to try a Thermacell mosquito repeller and see how it works for you. These are devices that emit allethrin, a synthetic copy of a natural repellent found in chrysanthemum plants. There are portable versions that clip onto your clothing, and models to set on a table or on the ground next to you.

I was dubious last summer when my brother began singing the praises of Thermacells. He said it was the first summer he and his neighbors had ever been able to dine out and spend the rest of the evening outdoors without getting bitten at all. I had purchased mosquito curtains for my gazebo. He spent $25 on another Thermacell, gave it to me and challenged me to try it.

Holy cow: they work. I've got a pond, and even when I'm next to the pond I'm mosquito-free.

Since they're not terribly expensive, it may be worth a try for you, too.
posted by Lunaloon at 8:43 AM on January 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

Wipe down your legs and feet with rubbing alcohol. It will decrease the skin scents that mosquitos are attracted to. Also take lots of B12. In the jungles of south America you can even buy b12 injections at the drugstore! Pills work fine, you just have to take them every day. The shot lasts for 3 days or so.
posted by ananci at 9:59 AM on January 7, 2019

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